Landlords fight for college students during migration

By Conor Mooney

February 21, 2014 Updated Feb 21, 2014 at 10:44 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) With more college students moving downtown, local politicians are praising the change. The economic impact on the city's fourth district has been undeniably positive, most say. But what about the rest of the city?

With the growing options for students to live in the heart of the city, landlords who typically rent to students in surrounding neighborhoods have been left scrounging for tenants.

"This is February and they're not rented. That's late. And the majority of (houses and apartments) will probably not be rented, as was the case last year," said Ellie Farfaglia, president of the Binghamton Landlord Association.

Farfaglia believes the demand for housing in Binghamton's traditional neighborhoods has diminished with the shift to the downtown area.

"What happens is, landlords who are put into this position will end up renting to just about anyone," she stated.

For years, she has owned property on the west side, a place she said has changed during the past couple of decades.

She only rents to students, claiming them to be more stable. She cited a block of Oak Street that used to be filled with them, but has taken on deterioration in recent years.

"It was a clean, clean street, safe. Never any problems anywhere," recalled Farfaglia.

And as the students moved out, she said crime moved in. This is because landlords are forced to rent to anyone to pay their bills, no matter what their history, Farfaglia said.

Binghamton Mayor and Republican Rich David called the university's increased presence downtown "exciting."

He admits the city's seen an increase in its crime rate, but he didn't say the two were directly linked.

"We've seen increases in burglaries and larcenies, and crime is a major concern," said David.

David plans to address the issue with more feet on the ground.

Since he took office in January, he filled seven vacancies within the Binghamton Police Department, and is in the process of moving money around to add more.

Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said high level crime has actually gone down in certain areas of the west side. But he's embracing a growing force.

"There's a lot of things with more man power that we'll be able to do that we did a number of years ago but over the past four or five years we've had to cut back and not do those types of things," said Zikuski.

David noted Binghamton University's plans to increase enrollment by 4,000 students during the next six years, most of whom would be graduate students who won't not live on campus.

Mark Reisinger, is a professor of Geography at Binghamton University who researches economic geography. He said landlords "may have to weather a little bit of a storm right now, but I think over the next five years or so, they're going to see that demand come back and increase."

He added the growth doesn't stop there. More faculty and support staff would most likely produce other jobs that go along with a growing population, such as retailers.

Farfaglia remained skeptical.

"What are we supposed to wait six years?" she said. "These empty houses that are just deteriorating. Landlords, people who own houses have to bring some kind of money in."